Social Media Faces Lawsuits From Schools Over Mental Health Effects
SEATTLE, Wash. – The big U.S. social media firms, like the cigarette, oil, gun, opioid, and vape businesses before them, are now facing lawsuits launched by public agencies seeking to hold them accountable for a massive societal problem – in this case, the mental health crisis among youngsters.
However, the new cases — one filed by a public school district in Seattle last week, another by a suburban district on Monday, and almost definitely more to follow — face an uncertain legal path.
Next month, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments on how federal law protects the computer industry from such claims when social media algorithms push potentially dangerous information.
Even if the Supreme Court grants permission for lawsuits like Seattle’s, the district faces difficulty showing the industry’s liability.
And the tech industry says there are many ways in which the effects of social media on teens’ mental health are different from, say, how big pharma promotes opioid addiction.
There Are Many Ways Social Media Effects Teens
“The fundamental premise is that the tech business is to blame for teens’ emotional state because they recommended content that has caused emotional injury,” vice president of tech industry trade organization NetChoice, said. “It would be ludicrous to sue Barnes & Noble because a staff member recommended a book that caused emotional harm or upset a youngster.” But that is precisely what this lawsuit does.”
Seattle Public Schools sued the digital titans behind TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat on Friday, arguing they had created a public nuisance by marketing to youngsters. The Kent School District in the Seattle suburbs followed suit on Monday.
The districts blame the companies for mental health and behavioral disorders such as anxiety, depression, disordered eating, and cyberbullying, making it making difficult to educate students; and forcing schools to take steps such as hiring more mental health professionals, developing lesson plans about the effects of social media, and providing additional teacher training.
Unprecidented Life Challenges
“Young people everywhere — face unprecedented learning and life challenges that are exacerbated by the negative effects of increased screen time, potentially addictive social media properties,” Seattle Superintendent Brent Jones said in an emailed statement Tuesday. “We hope this action will help reverse this trend for our students.”
The Communications Decency Act of 1996 protects online businesses from being held responsible for what other people post on their platforms. But the complaints say that the rule, which was made before there were any social media platforms, doesn’t protect the tech giants in this case because their algorithms favor harmful information.
This is also the issue in Gonzalez v. Google, YouTube’s parent firm, which the Supreme Court will hear on February 21. In another instance, the family of an American lady slain in an Islamic State group attack in Paris in 2015 claims that YouTube’s algorithms helped the terror group recruit.
If the Supreme Court rules that digital corporations can be held accountable in such cases, school districts will still have to prove that social media was to blame. Seattle’s lawsuit says that between 2009 and 2019, the number of students who said they felt “so unhappy or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row” that they stopped doing some of their usual activities rose by 30%.
However, Szabo noted that Seattle’s graduation rates have been rising since 2019 when many youngsters relied on social media to stay in touch with their pals during the pandemic. He said that the number of people who graduate from high school would be going up if social media were so bad for the district’s educational efforts.
“The complaint focuses solely on how social media damages children, and there may be evidence of that,” said Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley. “However, there is a lot of evidence that social media improves teenagers and other children. We don’t know what the distress rate would be like if social media didn’t exist. The distress rate might probably be higher rather than lower.”
Company’s Care About The Safety Of Its Users
The companies have said that they care about the safety of their users, especially children. They have tools that make it easier for parents to know who their children are talking to. They have also made it easier for people to find mental health resources on social media, like the new 988 crisis hotline. They have also made it easier to check a user’s age and set limits on how much time they can spend on their devices.
“When teens join Instagram, we immediately switch their profiles to private, and we send reminders encouraging them to take regular breaks,” Meta‘s global head of safety, said “We do not allow content that promotes suicide, self-harm, or eating disorders, and we identify over 99% of the content we remove or take action on before it is reported to us.”
Frances Haugen, a Facebook whistleblower, released internal studies in 2021 that showed the company knew Instagram was bad for kids because it hurt their body image and made eating disorders and suicidal thoughts worse. She claimed the platform put profits ahead of safety and concealed its research from investors and the general public.
Josh Golin, the executive director of Fairplay, an organization that protects children from commercialization and marketing, says that even if social media helps some students, it doesn’t make up for the huge harm it does to many others.
“The mental health expenses to students are astronomical, as is the amount of time schools have to spend monitoring and responding to social media drama,” Golin added. “It is ludicrous that schools are liable for the devastation created by these social media sites to young people. Nobody is witnessing the kinds of cumulative effects that social media is having on school districts.”
Both claims were filed in the United States District Court, but they are based on state public nuisance law – a wide, ill-defined legal notion with origins dating back to 13th century England. In Washington, a public nuisance is “any illegal act and every failure to do a duty” that “annoys, hurts, or threatens the safety, health, comfort, or rest of a large number of people.”
Tabacco Industries Under Constant Fire
Most notably, public nuisance allegations aided the tobacco industry in reaching a $246 billion, 25-year settlement with the states in 1998. However, state, city, county, and tribal governments have used public nuisance legislation to hold oil firms accountable for climate change, the gun business for gun violence, the pharmaceutical sector for the opioid crisis, and vaping companies like Juul accountable for teen vaping.
The majority of the litigation is still continuing. Juul Labs agreed to resolve thousands of lawsuits, including 1,400 from school districts, towns, and counties, for an estimated $1.2 billion last month.
The Seattle lawsuit could lead to many changes, raising questions about whether it is right to solve big social problems in court instead of through laws. However, the school system faces little risk because the complaint was brought on a contingency basis, which means the company is only paid if the action is successful.
Jolina Cuaresma, senior counsel for privacy and technology policy at Common Sense Media, which works to make media safer for children, said she was pleased to see a school district file a public nuisance lawsuit against internet corporations.
“People have grown impatient of waiting for Congress to act,” she remarked.
SOURCE – (AP)
Some ‘Diablo IV’ Players Report Invalid License Error Message After Early Access Launch
Washington, D.C. The highly anticipated action role-playing video game “Diablo IV” launched its early access on Thursday night. However, there were some delays, particularly for PlayStation players.
While many players who pre-purchased eligible “Diablo IV” editions experienced no problems with the early access launch, some PS5 users reported getting an invalid licensing error message. After initially stating that a server-side balance update had been implemented, Blizzard acknowledged the problem.
A software upgrade known as a hotfix focuses on a single problem and normally does not cause service interruptions.
The most recent game in the Blizzard “Diablo” series, which debuted in 1996, is titled “Diablo IV” and was released in May 2012. This is more than ten years after “Diablo III”‘s debut. Although the game’s early access began on Thursday, the launch is set for the following week.
Diablo’s general manager, Rod Fergusson, referred to “Diablo IV” as “our most brutal vision of Sanctuary,” the make-believe setting for the game. He continued, saying that it incorporates “the darkness of the original game” and expands on significant elements from other games in the franchise.
Activision Blizzard, the parent business of Blizzard Entertainment, announced in April that its net sales for the first quarter of 2023 increased to $2.38 billion from $1.77 billion. Activision reported that “Diablo IV” presales were robust, indicating that the game had undergone successful public testing.
What you need to know about “Diablo IV’s” upcoming official release and early access launch on Thursday is provided here.
WHEN DOES DIABLO IV COMMENCE?
Depending on your local time zone, “Diablo IV” will be formally published on Tuesday or Wednesday next week. The game will begin in the United States on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET (4 p.m. PT).
Although “Diablo IV” is set to be on sale next week, early access started a few days earlier, on either Thursday or Friday, depending on where you are. Players who pre-purchased the game’s digital deluxe or ultimate edition were expected to have early access.
Additionally, some devices allow players who have previously purchased “Diablo IV” to pre-load the game. According to Blizzard, pre-loading is possible for Windows PC, Xbox, and PlayStation.
DIABLO IV “UNABLE TO FIND LICENCE”?
Although early access appeared to open without incident for the majority of gamers, some PS5 users reported receiving an error message that stated, “unable to find a valid licence for Diablo IV,” according to posts on Blizzard’s community forums and social media. Players on the PS5 appeared to be the ones most affected by the problem, but some other users said they also received the notice on Xbox and other platforms.
In a forum post late Thursday night, Blizzard recognized the PlayStation customers’ complaints. Adam Fletcher, director of global community development, later claimed that “Diablo IV” had received a server-side balance update implemented across all platforms.
How many early access players were affected by the problem is unknown. On Blizzard’s forum, some angry customers reported that they were still having access issues as of Friday morning.
The Associated Press requested statements from Blizzard and PlayStation on Friday morning.
WHAT CLASSES DO DIABLO IV CHARACTERS FALL INTO?
“Diablo IV” reportedly takes place decades after the events of “Diablo III: Reaper of Souls.” The angel Inarius and the demon Lilith have started a battle and are at odds.
In “Diablo IV,” players can choose from one of five classes: Druids, Rogues, Sorceresses, Barbarians, or Necromancers.
At launch, “Diablo IV” will support couch co-op and cross-platform play on Windows PC, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, and PlayStation 4, among other platforms.
Financial results for Activation for 2022, Microsoft Deal
In 2022, Activision, the company behind “Call of Duty,” “Candy Crush,” and “World of Warcraft,” recorded net revenues of $7.53 billion, a decrease from the $8.8 billion reported in 2021.
Microsoft revealed plans to buy Activision in January 2022, but the historic transaction is doubtful more than a year later. Last month, the European Union authorized the $69 billion purchase, but British regulators halted it due to concerns about competition. Authorities in the US are also attempting to block the merger.
Regulators worldwide have scrutinized the agreement because of concern that it will give Microsoft and its Xbox platform control of popular s. PlayStation maker rival Sony has led a ferocious opposition.
Activision and Microsoft have appealed to a tribunal about the U.K. ruling. Liam Deane, a gaming industry analyst at digital research and consultancy firm Omdia, previously told The Associated Press that if the appeal is unsuccessful, Microsoft would be compelled to either cancel the arrangement or carve out the U.K. as a distinct market, which appeared to be an impractical choice.
SOURCE – (AP)
Amazon To Pay $31 Million In Privacy Violation Penalties For Alexa Voice Assistant And Ring Camera
Washington, D.C. Amazon has agreed to settle charges from the Federal Trade Commission that it violated a statute protecting children’s privacy and misled parents by retaining for years the voice and location data of children recorded by its well-known Alexa voice assistant by paying a $25 million civil penalty.
In a separate agreement, the business acknowledged that its doorbell camera Ring may have violated customers’ privacy and agreed to pay them $5.8 million in refunds.
The Alexa-related action requires Amazon to revise its data deletion procedures and implement tougher, more lucid privacy controls. Additionally, it requires the tech giant to remove certain information gathered by its web-connected personal assistant, which users use to do everything from playing games and queueing up music to checking the weather.
Samuel Levine, the FCT’s director of consumer protection, said in a statement that Amazon’s history of misleading parents, retaining children’s recordings indefinitely, and disobeying deletion orders infringed on COPPA (the Child Online Privacy Protection Act) and compromised privacy for money. The 1998 law was created to protect kids from the dangers of the internet.
According to a statement by FTC Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya, “when parents asked Amazon to delete their kids’ Alexa voice data, the company did not delete all of it.”
The organization mandated that specific voice and geolocation data, as well as dormant child accounts, be deleted by the corporation.
Amazon has agreed to settle charges from the Federal Trade Commission that it violated a statute protecting children’s privacy.
According to Bedoya, Amazon stored the children’s data to improve the voice recognition algorithm that powers Alexa, the artificial intelligence that runs Echo and other smart speakers. According to him, the FTC case sends a message to other tech firms that are “sprinting to do the same” in the face of intense competition when creating AI datasets.
The father of two young children, Bedoya, stated on Twitter that “nothing is more visceral to a parent than the sound of their child’s voice.”
More than half a billion Alexa-enabled gadgets have been sold internationally, according to Amazon, which also said that usage of the service rose 35% in 2016.
According to the FTC, in the Ring case, Amazon’s subsidiary for home security cameras gave employees and contractors access to customers’ private recordings and used insufficient security procedures that enabled hackers to take over certain accounts.
Many of the FTC’s claims of violations against California-based Ring’s operations date before Amazon’s 2018 acquisition of the company. The ring is compelled by the FTC’s decision to pay $5.8 million, which will be used for consumer refunds.
Amazon denied breaking the law and disagreed with the FTC’s allegations on Alexa and Ring. Nevertheless, it stated that the agreements “put these matters behind us.”
The Seattle-based business claimed that its “devices and services are built to protect customers’ privacy and to give customers control over their experience.”
The proposed order forbids Amazon from using deleted voice and geolocation data to develop or enhance any data products, in addition to the penalty in the Alexa case. Amazon must also develop a privacy program for using geolocation data by the court’s judgment.
Federal judges must approve the proposed orders.
The FTC commissioners unanimously made the decision to charge Amazon in both cases.
SOURCE – (AP)
Regulators Take Aim At AI To Protect Consumers And Workers
NEW YORK — The nation’s finance authority has pledged to ensure that businesses comply with the Regulators law when utilizing artificial intelligence in light of rising concerns over increasingly capable AI systems like ChatGPT.
Automated systems and algorithms already heavily influence credit scores, loan conditions, bank account fees, and other monetary factors. Human resources, real estate, and working conditions are all impacted by AI.
According to Electronic Privacy Information Centre Senior Counsel Ben Winters Regulators, the federal agencies’ joint statement on enforcement released last month was a good starting step.
However, “there’s this narrative that AI is entirely unregulated, which is not really true,” he argued. “What they’re arguing is, ‘Just because you utilise AI to make a judgement, it doesn’t mean you’re exempt from responsibility for the repercussions of that decision. This is how we feel about it. “We are watching.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued fines to financial institutions in the past year for using new technology and flawed algorithms, leading to improper foreclosures, repossessions, and lost payments of homes, cars, and government benefits payments.
These enforcement proceedings are used as instances of how there will be no “AI exemptions” to consumer protection, according to regulators.
Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Rohit Chopra stated that the organization is “continuing to identify potentially illegal activity” and has “already started some work to continue to muscle up internally when it comes to bringing on board data scientists, technologists, and others to make sure we can confront these challenges.”
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) joins the Federal Trade Commission, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Justice, and others in claiming they are allocating resources and personnel to target emerging technologies and expose their potentially detrimental effects on consumers.
Chopra emphasized the importance of organizations understanding the decision-making process of their AI systems before implementing them. “In other cases, we are looking at how the use of all this data complies with our fair lending laws and Regulators.”
Financial institutions are required to report reasons for negative credit decisions by law, per the Fair Credit Regulators Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, for instance. Decisions about housing and work are also subject to these rules. Regulators have warned against using AI systems whose decision-making processes are too complex to explain.
Chopra speculated, “I think there was a sense that, ‘Oh, let’s just give it to the robots and there will be no more discrimination,'” I think what we’ve learned is that that’s not the case. The data itself may contain inherent biases.
Regulators have warned against using AI systems whose decision-making processes are too complex to explain.
Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Charlotte Burrows has pledged enforcement action against artificial intelligence (AI) Regulators recruiting technology that discriminates against people with disabilities and so-called “bossware” that illegally monitors employees.
Burrows also discussed the potential for algorithms to dictate illegal working conditions and hours to people.
She then added, “You need a break if you have a disability or perhaps you’re pregnant.” The algorithm only sometimes accounts for that kind of modification. Those are the sorts of things we’re taking a careful look at… The underlying message here is that laws still apply, and we have resources to enforce them; I don’t want anyone to misunderstand that just because technology is changing.
At a conference earlier this month, OpenAI’s top lawyer advocated for an industry-led approach to regulation.
OpenAI’s general counsel, Jason Kwon, recently spoke at a technology summit in Washington, DC, held by software industry group BSA. Industry standards and a consensus on them would be a good place to start. More debate is warranted about whether these should be mandated and how often they should be revised.
At a conference earlier this month, OpenAI’s top lawyer advocated for an industry-led approach to regulation.
The CEO of OpenAI, the company responsible for creating ChatGPT, Sam Altman, recently stated that government action “will be critical to mitigate the risks of increasingly powerful” AI systems and advocated for establishing a U.S. or global body to license and regulate the technology.
Altman and other tech CEOs were invited to the White House this month to confront tough questions about the consequences of these tools, even though there is no indication that Congress would draught sweeping new AI legislation like European politicians are doing.
As they have in the past with new consumer financial products and technologies, the agencies could do more to study and publish information on the relevant AI markets, how the industry is working, who the biggest players are, and how the information collected is being used, according to Winters of the Electronic Privacy Information Centre.
He said that “Buy Now, Pay Later” businesses had been dealt with effectively by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “The AI ecosystem has a great deal of undiscovered territory. Putting that knowledge out there would help.
SOURCE – (AP)
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